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Serving The People Of GodGems from Jam Picker

When I was a student in Bristol (1959-62), Jim Packer used to come and speak at the Christian Union meetings. We always called him 'Jam Picker' then, and the name has stuck with me. He went on to become a much-respected teacher and writer from the Reformed perspective.

This hardback—Volume 2 of his collected shorter writings—is Serving The People Of God (Paternoster, 1998, ISBN 0-85364-904-9). It is a collection of essays on miscellaneous topics. Its plus points, as with all his writing, are his warmth and lucidity; its minuses are his slavery to the Reformed scheme and his scepticism about most things charismatic. But there are some wonderful insights here for the discriminating reader.

To separate for truth's sake, at the summons of a biblically enlightened conscience, is not sin. When, without failure of love or respect, men dissociate themselves from their previous church connections in order to be free to obey God, this is not, and never was, schism.  (p41)

…the antiquarian fallacy about renewal, the assumption, that is, that any future renewal will become recognizable by conforming to some pattern set in the past.  (p71)

While one may effectively put out a fire by dousing it, one cannot start it burning again simply by stopping pouring water; it has to be lighted afresh. Similarly, when the Spirit has been quenched it is beyond man's power to undo the damage he has done: he can only cry to God in penitence to revive his work.  (p90)

Glossalalic prayer may help to free up and warm up some cerebral people, just as structured verbal prayer may help to steady up and shape up some emotional people.  (p154)

Councils and synods, like individual theologians, can go wrong, and the church's expository heritage must constantly be assessed and checked by the Scripture that it seeks to expound.  (p190)

The presentations of the gospel in the NT itself are culturally conditioned; but there we may believe that the Palestinian and Hellenistic cultural settings, so far from being distorting or limiting or obscuring factors, were providentially shaped so as to be wholly appropriate vehicles for expressing and exhibiting God's last word to the world.  (p219)

When Christ came to set up a new and richer form of the covenant relationship by his priestly sacrifice of himself, Israel spurned his ministry, and he was then the true Israel, the faithful remnant, in his own person. In him God's Israel was reconstituted out of believers as such, and in it Jew and Gentile are together as fellow-citizens, branches of one olive tree and brothers in one family.  (p224)

James Denney…said, 'You cannot at the same time give the impression that you are a great preacher and that Jesus Christ is a great Saviour.'  (p235)

Growth in grace is known by the way we behave under pressure, when times of testing and temptation come, when the heat is on and there is a crisis… Just as the high winds show whether trees have a good root system or not—if they have not, they get blown over—so do the times of testing show whether we have a good, strong, spiritual root system anchored firmly in our Lord Jesus Christ.  (p286)

[Re Paul and Barnabas disputing over John Mark] We can be sure that, God being who he is, no Christian forfeits blessing for parting company with his brother when both want the best, and only calculation of consequences divides them.  (p342)

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